Home Illustration Ben Simmons’ sanity is no joke

Ben Simmons’ sanity is no joke


New Nets guard Ben Simmons spoke publicly on Tuesday for the first time in months after being traded from the Sixers for James Harden and Paul Millsap, along with Andre Drummond, Seth Curry and two first-round picks. Simmons reported to the team in freefall on Monday after being absent from the start of the 2021-22 campaign, citing mental health issues.

Not everyone welcomed Brooklyn’s positive development this week.

“So much for Ben Simmons’ mental illness”, tweeted Philadelphia radio personality Howard Eskin. “It’s amazing how great it was once he was traded. Insulting to those who are really hurting.

“If Ben Simmons is suddenly ready to play for Brooklyn after weaponizing his sanity as an excuse to stay away from the Sixers, I’ll have some thoughts,” tweeted Matt Mullin, a future Philadelphia plaintiff editor. “Very angry thoughts that will be hard to keep to myself.”

Simmons’ situation is something of a test: how much attention have we paid to the underlying messages of athletes talking about their mental health? Haven’t previous public talks, especially over the past year by Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles, shown us that sometimes people just need a break or a change of scenery? Not everyone, athletic or not, can afford these opportunities, but those who can should. And if those at the top of their profession take a break, then maybe the rest of us can eventually follow their lead and work on setting boundaries too.

“I feel pretty good physically,” Simmons told reporters during his introductory press conference. “Mentally, I’m getting there, so it’s an ongoing thing to stay on top. But I think I’m going in the right direction.”

Simmons has yet to play this year, citing mental health issues after being out of training camp and the regular season so far. Some have argued that linking this to his mental health – as his agent Rich Paul did – was a financial game, Simmons exploiting a loophole so he could still make money while still clinging to a ticket out of town.

Simmons refuse this perception on Tuesday. “A lot of things that happened over the years, I wasn’t myself. To be happy, to take care of my well-being. It wasn’t about basketball, it wasn’t about money.

Simmons reportedly received help with his mental health from outside the franchise, which began during the offseason. He reportedly turned down inside help from the Sixers. “Philadelphia doesn’t have a mental health doctor on staff that Simmons is comfortable with,” Athleticism‘s Shams Charania reported in early November.)

Many athletes have said, including me, that they prefer to see licensed mental health practitioners outside of the team setting, where there is less pressure to focus on performance and get back to work. at once. Most workplaces don’t even have in-house doctors, partly for this reason. There is also a greater sense of intimacy in seeking mental health care outside of the team. It’s a move that comes at the athlete’s expense, which can be costly, but it’s a trade-off that’s worth it for some.

It’s easy to make jokes about Simmons. He’s a star NBA player who can’t shoot a two at a time, let alone a three. But his mental health, like anyone else’s, is no laughing matter, despite all the jokes about a move to Brooklyn never improving the well-being of a 20-something.

Sure, the adjustment in Philadelphia might not have been good for Simmons, but that doesn’t mean he was pretending to be anxious or depressed just to get a trade. Who among us hasn’t had a work situation that weighed on our mood or even exacerbated a pre-existing mental illness? A change of scenery can’t fix everything, but it’s entirely possible that a new team, a new city and a new boss really are help Simmons feel better.

We cannot selectively decide which athletes benefit from the doubt based on which stories seem most believable to outsiders. If you want to believe Osaka and Biles and all the rest, believe Simmons. If you’re having trouble granting him the grace, remember that there’s not much to gain for athletes who disclose mental health issues. While there is increasingly positive media coverage and good branding opportunities for athletes speaking out, for those in the sporting world, disclosure mainly raises red flags, making – especially black men – weak and vulnerable in the eyes of many on the ground. And off.

Write in December the new yorker‘s Louisa Thomas put it this way: “Reflexively doubting Simmons risks undermining the seriousness of [his] concerns; it is difficult to express skepticism without reinforcing the old stigma. In other words, you cannot pick and choose which athletes you support. Criticism of one casts doubt on all who wrestle and is based on the mistaken belief that athletes must be “mentally tough.”

Simmons’ jokes and blunt criticism recall a story those of us with mental illness have sadly heard before: Oh great, you’re better! You must not have been so sick to begin with. Or: Hey, you don’t have see sick. I saw you smile a few minutes ago.

“They should be happy that I’m smiling”, Simmons told reporters On Tuesday, when asked about the scrutiny he was under for daring to look like he was enjoying himself the day before, on the sidelines at Barclays as the Nets took on the Kings.

A smile does not cure someone. A new job either.

If you want to go ahead and laugh at Simmons or criticize him, you can also shoot down your mentally ill colleagues, friends, and family. We don’t decide what conditions we have. So we shouldn’t decide which ones are legit.

More NBA coverage:

• Trade Grades: 76ers acquire Harden From Nets for Simmons
• Questions around Ben Simmons remain despite trade
• NBA trade deadline winners and losers